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Food Integrity Campaign Blog

One Green Planet: Amid Widespread Disease Transmission Concerns Linked to Meat Consumption, USDA Approves Slaughterhouses to Kill Birds 25% Faster

February 27, 2020

Note: this article, featuring Government Accountability Project and the Food Integrity Campaign, was originally published here.

Amid Widespread Disease Transmission Concerns Linked to Meat Consumption, USDA Approves Slaughterhouses to Kill Birds 25% Faster

In light of the Coronavirus, we are seeing first hand how wildlife trade and meat consumption are related to infectious diseases and the deadly risk it poses to public health. It is therefore critical for governments to enforce stricter welfare standards for commercially-raised animals and ensure food safety is a priority.

According to the Humane Society, the USDA has increased its line speed limit to allow them to slaughter 175 birds a minute or 10,500 chickens each hour.

The Humane Society of the United States, Animal Outlook, Mercy for Animals, Government Accountability Project and Marin Humane, have filed a suit alleging the USDA didn’t provide legal notice, consider worker safety or think of food safety in this decision.

With these high speeds, workers have to keep up with line speeds to slaughter chickens. Trying to cram their legs into shackles, causing harm. Birds on the production line either miss the throat-cutting blade and enter the scalder to receive a scalding water bath. Animals are often kept in holding pens where they are unable to rise from feces-ridden floors before being slaughtered.

This type of inhumane handling makes animals injured and sick which increases the risk of them carrying a host of human-transmissible pathogens, including Listeria, Campylobacter, SalmonellaSwine Flu, and Yersinia. Just last week various groups filed a lawsuit against the USDA because they have failed to uphold basic animal welfare standards in slaughterhouses, which is leading people to eat sick animals and deadly diseases.

This is also dangerous to those that work in slaughterhouses. The Labor Department reports that injury rates for poultry workers are 60% higher than the national average.

The Humane Society said on their blog, ” We cannot allow this pattern of deregulating animal slaughter to continue. Most animals raised on factory farms already suffer immensely during their short lives. Chickens used for meat are genetically manipulated to grow at an unnaturally fast rate, are crowded into barren warehouses, and when they reach slaughter weight at approximately six weeks of age, they are violently caught by the legs and shoved into tightly packed cages to be trucked to slaughter. During transport, many birds die from extreme temperatures and the trauma experienced during catching and crating. The least we can do is not further exacerbate the suffering they already endure at the end of life.”